Though it will fall short of the intense attention we receive during Presidential years, November 2014 in Iowa will develop into a fierce battleground for both political parties.Â In spite of the gubernatorial election on the ballot the prize for each side will be the open US Senate seat vacated by Tom Harkin.
While it is a virtual certainty that BruceÂ Braley will be the Democrat candidate in this race the Republican field is wide open, with no one yet confirming a run.Â As it stands now Rep. Steve King has been given the â€œfirst right of refusalâ€ by fellow potential candidates Kim Reynolds and Bill Northey, andÂ it isÂ widely believed he will have decided by May 1st.Â One way or another, the field will become clear soon after.Â In the meantime, here is a first look at the dynamics if the matchup were King vs. Braley.
On last weekendâ€™s Iowa Press Steve King referred to a Republican winning the seat as a â€œslightly uphill battleâ€â€”and the numbers indeed bear this out.Â Though they were highly inflated due to it being a Presidential election year, the cumulative votes cast last year in Iowaâ€™s four Congressional districts reveal the Republican will be starting in anÂ electoral hole.Â In total the four Congressional Democratic candidates (Braley, Loebsack, Boswell, and Vilsack) received 772,387 votes, while the four Republican candidates (Lange, Archer, Latham, and King) received 726,505 votes (D+45,882).
Obviously this is too broad a measure to be definitive but it does give a feel for the obstacles the Republican will face.Â Far more informative is looking at how Braley and King faired in their individual races.Â In this scenario the candidate and the electorate in their districts remain the same and the only variable that changes is the opponent.Â What the numbers show is that Bruce Braley is a better performing candidate than Steve Kingâ€”something that will likely come as a surprise to many Republicans.
Last cycle Braley went in with a 25,420 voter registration advantage in HD 1 over Ben Lange but won by 59,957â€”beating the numbers by 34,537.Â Meanwhile King went in with a 50,396 voter registration advantage in HD 4 over Christie Vilsack but won by only 30,593 votesâ€”losing the numbers by 19,803.
Yes Braley and Vilsackâ€™s numbers were surely inflated due to Obama being on the ballot, and King and Lange were done no favors by Romneyâ€™s trouble with Independents, but there is still cause for concern.Â This is due to the fact that some of this inflated total was surely offset by King facing a far weaker opponent than Braleyâ€”Lange was a proven campaigner who came within 4,000 votes of beating Braley in 2010 while Vilsack proved to be an awful candidate who ran a terrible campaign.
These facts are certainly not to suggest a Republican cannot win the seat, they merely offer some context on the difficulties involved and likely explain the caution potential candidates are proceeding with.
Braley vs. King on Paper
The perplexing thing about this potential matchup is that on paper King is a far superior candidate to Braley.Â While King started an earth moving construction company from scratch, Braley is a trial lawyer and former head of the Iowa Trial Lawyers Association.Â Though it is true King has a visceral way of approaching issues and a knack for the ill-worded statement, Braleyâ€™s voting record reveals he is without a doubt a west-coast Liberal who just happens to reside in Iowa.Â In fact, besides voting with Democrats and Obamaâ€™s agenda 98% of the time in 2008, 99% in 2009, and 98% in 2010, since January 2007 he has voted 91% of the time with Nancy Pelosi.Â Among these votes of course are Cap & Trade, Dodd-Frank, Obamacare, and authorizing more than $6 trillion in debt over the last four years.
The number one objective for the campaign of whatever Republican takes on Braley will be getting the word out on his voting record.Â And if the above facts arenâ€™t enough evidence of his poor decision making for Independents in Iowaâ€”you can add he was one of the first to endorse fellow trial lawyer John Edwards for president in 2008.
In many Republican circles it has become a common belief that Steve King canâ€™t win a statewide raceâ€”I do not concur.Â Perhaps Iâ€™d see more truth in this if the candidate on the other side was a moderate instead of one of the most Liberal politicians in the countryâ€”funny how we never hear Bruce Braley canâ€™t win a statewide race.
That being said, I am of the belief that our strongest candidate by a longshot would be Kim Reynoldsâ€”and we would not risk a House seat in the process.Â While he would surely have a shot if he ran, undoubtedly the media would exclusively focus on Kingâ€™s past statements and ignore Braleyâ€™s voting record.
In the end I predict that King will decide against running.Â Whether he proves me wrong or not, whoever takes up this task will have to run hard.Â Though this is a realistic opportunity for Republicans the numbers show that it indeed will be a â€œslightly uphill battleâ€.
Iowans all across the state were shocked and saddened this morning by the news that Senator Pat Ward had passed away after losing her battle with breast cancer.Â She had servedÂ as a Republican in the Iowa Senate since 2004 and was an extremely respectedÂ womanÂ and legislator.Â The following are statements released by Governor Branstad, Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds, and Republican Party of Iowa Chairman A.J Spiker, and TCR Publisher Art Smith.
All of us at The Conservative Reader pass on our sincere condolences to the Ward family. Â She will be missed.
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â€œI was with shock and sadness that learned of my friend Pat Wardâ€™s passing. She had a wonderful career in public service, and was such a caring and passionate person. As a senator, she was a champion for her district, took the time to get to know the issues, and worked in a bipartisan manner to enact meaningful legislation on behalf of her constituents. She always had a positive outlook on life, even in illness, and her smile would brighten each room she entered. The thoughts and prayers of Chris and I are extended to her large network of family, friends and constituents.â€
Lt. Governor Reynolds
â€œHaving served with Pat in the Senate, I witnessed firsthand her dedication to the state of Iowa, and her incredible work every day on behalf of her constituents. Pat Ward was a dear friend, and the news of her passing is incredibly difficult and painful to hear. I hope all Iowans will look at her example, the way she cared for others and worked to make the world a better place, and remember her significant life and achievements. Our administration will miss her as a policy maker, and we all will personally miss her as a friend.â€
RPI Chairman A.J Spiker
“I am saddened to learn of the passing of Iowa State Senator Pat Ward. Public service and dedication to the people of Iowa were hallmarks of her career. On behalf of all Iowa Republicans, I would like to express our gratitude for Pat’s service to the people of Iowa. Our thoughts and prayers are with Pat’s friends and family during this difficult time.”
TCR Publisher Art Smith
“Pat was a kind and dedicated woman who was always interested in hearing the opinions of others, especially her constituents. Â During my brief opportunities in speaking with Pat, I found her to be charming and very well informed on the issues. Â As my senator, I was surprised that she not only remembered me whenever we crossed paths, but on our first acquaintance quickly connected me to a single letter I had written her in the past. Â I sincerely admired herÂ person-ability.”
I would have liked to have gotten this posted Friday, but family issues interjected themselves.
As you know, both Governor Terry Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds were sworn in to their respective offices Friday.Â The Inauguration ceremony, which is conducted as a joint session of the Iowa House and Iowa Senate, was held at Hy-Vee Hall in Des Moines. Â There was appropriate pomp and respect in the procession and swearing in of both Reynolds and Branstad, and about 2,000 people were present to witness the event.
The music at the event was awesome, and the selection of songs by the Heartland Youth Choir was wonderful. Â I deeply appreciate the pride and respect given to our flags and the servicemen and women conducting during the presentation of the colors.
One can find some thoughtful and insightful thoughts from Shane Vanderhart (and later reflections as well), Kathy Obradovich, and Bleeding Heartland (yes, a liberal perspective shouldn’t hurt now and then).
Both gave speeches that provided an introduction into a kind of new beginning for state government in Iowa, and the foundation of their thoughts on how state government should serve Iowans.
Lieutenant Governor Reynolds offered some thoughts on the values being brought to Iowa government, and emphasized government’s need to listen to its people and focus on key areas like education while encouraging Iowans to proactively reach out to those around them in need. Â She use the story of the Pender family in Windsor Heights to help emphasize this.
Governor Branstad more or less kept to his promise of a relatively short speech, but was long on promise. Â The core message was that there would be a “new covenant” between government and Iowans. Â His presentation focused on 5 main principles:
- We have too much government and it must be reduced
- Government must serve the people
- It is time to restore integrity and transparency to our government decision-making processes
- A renewed commitment to provide the best education in the world
- We must celebrate success
The Governor’s speech was filled with a substantial amount of passion and emphasis on the areas that need work, and I was intrigued by the number of times the audience rose to their feet in response to his words. Â The message itself, a message of the kind of government many have been calling for, a message of Iowans reaching out and helping other Iowans directly instead of waiting for government to act as a proxy, a message of renewing our commitment to education and commerce… this message is a good start for the new administration.
It’s interesting to note that in other countries, a change in leadership is ofter referred to as a “new government”. Â We don’t tend to use that expression in the US so much, but it seems an appropriate expression at this time.
It’s worth a read.
That said, I was reminded in a conversation with my dad tonight about the cyclic nature of history and politics. Â I’m personally encouraged by what the Governor shared on Friday, and between his administration, Iowa’s new Republican House and growing Republican presence in the Senate. Â My hopes are high that we will be able to get our fiscal house in order and move to more careful spending.
However, we have been here before and our tendency has been to start off on the right foot (no pun intended) and end up spending ourselves into a stupor. Â It will be difficult, but as citizens we need to be vigilant regarding the work of government and expect, nay, demand scrupulous management of our state’s resources from the beginning to the end of each term of office of our representatives and Governor. Â It is a mistake to push the cart in the right direction and hope it reaches its destination unaltered.
The citizens needs to keep the cart straight.
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A lot of people worked hard to prepare for this event and the ball later that day. Â One person I want to mention whom I noticed in the procession was Mike Cook, who was a member of the Inaugural Committee. Â There were clearly a number of great people on the committee, but Mike is someone I have worked with throughout my tenure with Polk County Republicans, and have admired him during that time.
Mike Cook has achieved greatness in my eyes because of his commitment to working as hard as he can to support the goals of our party despite physical challenges that would keep many away from any volunteer activities. Â He is reliable, consistent, focused on the goal, and totally supportive of the party’s work. Â Rarely do we have a need for volunteers where Mike does not show up. Whether it’s parades, phone calls, office work, manning a booth at an event, helping with setup, speaking before a group, Mike is always ready to step up and do what it takes to make a difference.
We have a lot of hard working volunteers, but Mike Cook shines brightly among them.